The Vinaya Pitaka (Pali; Sanskrit) is one of the Three pitakas ("three baskets") found within the major Buddhist traditions. The Vinaya Pitaka explains the disciplinary codes for monastics and lay people. Each of the three major traditions of Buddhism (Thereavada, East Asian, Tibetan) follow different (although similar) versions of the Vinaya Pitaka.
Scholarly consensus places the composition of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in the early centuries of the first millennium, though all the manuscripts and translations are relatively late.
Six versions survive complete, of which three are still in use.
The Therevada version of the Vinaya Pitaka is included in the Pali Canon
- Suttavibhanga (-vibhaṅga): commentary on the Patimokkha, with much of its text embedded
- Mahavibhanga (mahā-) dealing with monks
- Bhikkhunivibhanga (bhikkhunī-) dealing with nuns
- Khandhaka: 22 chapters on various topics
- Parivara: analyses the rules from various points of view
The Pali version of the Patimokkha, the code of conduct that applies to Buddhist monastics, contains 227 rules for bhikkhus and 311 rules for bhikkhunis. The Vibhanga section(s) of Vinaya Pitaka constitute(s) a commentary on these rules, giving detailed explanations of them along with the origin stories for each rule. The Khandhaka/Skandhaka sections give numerous supplementary rules grouped by subject, again with origin stories. The Buddha called his teaching the "Dhamma-Vinaya", emphasizing both the philosophical teachings of Buddhism as well as the training in virtue that embodies that philosophy.
East Asian tradition
The "Vinaya in Four Parts" (Chinese: 四分律; pinyin: Shìfēnlǜ) (Taisho catalogue number 1428) is Chinese translation of the Dharmaguptaka version, and is the version used in the Chinese tradition and its derivatives in Korea, Vietnam and in Japan under the early Kokubunji temple system. In the case of Japan, this was later replaced with ordination based solely on the Bodhisattva Precepts.
- Bhikshuvibhanga dealing with monks
- Bhikshunivibhanga dealing with nuns.
- Vinayaikottara, corresponding to a chapter of the Parivara
Other surviving versions of the Vinaya Pitaka in this tradition are:
- Shih-sung lü (T1435), translation of Sarvastivada version
- Ekottaradharma, similar to Vinayaikottara
- Wu-fen lü (T1421), translation of Mahisasaka version
- Mo-ho-seng-ch'i lü 摩訶僧祇律 (T1425), translation of Mahasanghika version (the nuns' rules have been translated by the late Professor Hirakawa in English as Monastic Discipline for the Buddhist Nuns, Patna, 1982)
In addition, portions of various versions survive in various languages.
In the collected Chinese editions of the Scriptures the Vinaya pitaka has a broader sense, including all four Chinese vinayas listed above, parts of others, non-canonical vinaya literature, lay vinaya and bodhisattva vinaya.
'Dul-ba, Tibetan translation of the Mulasarvastivada version; this is the version used in the Tibetan tradition
- Vinayavastu: 16 skandhakas (khandhakas) and the start of the 17th
- Pratimokshasutra of monks
- Vinayavibhanga of monks
- Pratimokshasutra of nuns
- Vinayavibhanga of nuns
- Vinayakshudrakavastu: rest of the 17th skandhaka and others
- Vinayottaragrantha: appendices, including Upaliparipriccha, which corresponds to a chapter of the Parivara
It was compiled at the First Council shortly after the Buddha's death, and recited by Upali, with little later addition. Most of the different versions are fairly similar, most scholars consider most of the Vinaya to be fairly early, that is, dating from before the separation of schools.
Place in the tradition
According to the scriptures, in the first years of the Buddha's teaching the sangha lived together in harmony with no vinaya, as there was no need, because all of the Buddha's early disciples were highly realized if not fully enlightened. As the sangha expanded situations arose which the Buddha and the lay community felt were inappropriate for samanas, or ascetics. According to tradition, the first rule to be established was the prohibition against sexual acts. The origin story tells of an earnest monk whose family was distraught that there was no male heir and so persuaded the monk to impregnate his wife. All three, the monk, his wife and son who both later ordained, eventually became fully enlightened arahants.
The vinaya is very important to Buddhists -
"Whatever Dhamma and Vinaya I have pointed out and formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone." (Mahaparinibbana Sutta, [D.16]).
- Vanessa R. Sasson Little Buddhas: Children and Childhoods in Buddhist Texts 2012 Page 46 "The Pāli Vinaya has been critically edited and translated in its entirety and will serve as a point of comparison with the Northern Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition that is the focus of this study. Dating the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya is problematic, since all the manuscripts and translations are relatively late.14 Scholarly consensus places it in the early / centuries of the first millenium. "
- New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions, page 380
- Davids, T. W. Rhys, Oldenberg, Hermann (joint tr): Vinaya texts, Oxford, The Clarendon press 1881. Vol.1 Vol.2 Vol.3 Internet Archive
- Pali Canon online: Vinaya Pitaka in English
- Translation by T. W. Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg
- Access to Insight translation
- Translation by Isaline Blew Horner
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